in Marketing

7 lessons from Goodfellas that will make you a marketing wise guy

Yes, there are spoilers ahead*

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a marketer.

Marketers are the big earners in companies, a good move and their company can go from rags to riches, a bad move and they can go completely bust.

And what a better way to learn about marketing than with Goodfellas, a cinema masterpiece that teaches us so many valuable lessons about the mob, life, and marketing.

Gangsters have a line of work like any other; it leaves them little space to make mistakes since making one means long years in the can or even death. So they have to be at the top of their game 24/7.

You can also be at the top of your game with these 7 marketing lessons that will make you a wiseguy (wearing a fedora and a Brioni suit is optional).

Results come with execution only

Henry Hill said at the beginning of the movie: “For us to live any other way was nuts”, “If we wanted something, we just took it.” And for marketers this is one of the most important lessons: you just have to get out there and take what is yours.

If you spend too much time planning, strategizing, debating trivial details and not executing your competitors will bury you in no time.

I am not saying you should skip this stage altogether but don’t get stuck overthinking for too long.

Henry and his crew used to stay up late, talk through the heists while having a drink, make sure the bosses approve the plan, and next morning they would be up early executing.

You need to go out there and implement as soon as possible, sure you could fail, but if you don’t try fast enough the chances of failing are much, much higher.

The Internet has given us a bunch of tools that let us put our brand in front of thousands of potential customers within hours.

Facebook lead ads can get you leads almost instantly and without the need of building a landing page, you can then use tools such as Mailchimp to create an automated email sequence for the leads you just captured and start selling immediately.

If you absolutely need a landing page you can create it quickly and without any technical knowledge using tools such as Leadpages and GetResponse.

If you are selling a product you can set up an online shop with ready-made platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce for less than a hundred bucks.

Before you start do a quick competitors research using Sem Rush and you are set to go. In a couple of hours, you will be getting fresh leads that can become your lifetime customers!

Don’t live for appearances


“Are you stupid?” Jimmy tells one of his robbery associates after he bought his wife a pink Cadillac DeVille right after the biggest heist of their life.

“Don’t be stupid” marketing is all about getting results and measuring them, not about appearances.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half” this famous marketing phrase was coined by John Wanamaker, considered one of the pioneers of modern marketing. In the early days of marketing this type of rationale was the norm but today if a marketer justifies his job with this phrase he would get whacked pretty quickly.

Now we are able to accurately and precisely measure the ROI of almost every dollar spent, especially in online marketing.

So instead of jumping right into edgy and creative campaigns — the kind agencies love so much because they receive awards for them — make sure to install all the possible tools that track your marketing results to know exactly what works.

Google Analytics and Kissmetrics for online marketing, Hubspot for your entire sales pipeline, Call Rail for call tracking, URL variations and UTM parameters for website links displayed on offline ads, and tracking estimated store visits from PPC ad clicks with Adwords.

Appearances are vacuous and don’t offer any real value. In marketing only measurable results are important. If you don’t believe me ask Jimmy Conway.

Always have a plan B

Trust your big idea, but don’t be too full of it and always find a way to have something else lined up in case it fails.

When Henry was in jail and had his hands tied up he knew he needed a plan, and fast, so he got a guy to move dope for him inside prison. Once he got out he “had something lined up” in fact, Henry always had something lined up, because he never stopped hustling.

Having a plan B — or “pivoting” how it’s known in startup circles — has been a crucial element in the survival of many notorious businesses.

Youtube, for instance, began as a video dating website, however, this format did not prove to be successful as the founders had expected.

They did a market research and realized there is no reliable source for users to watch and share videos online. Janet Jackson´s Superbowl nip slip and the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami were two particular events that inspired them to do so.

This is how Youtube as we know it was born and was later sold to Google for $1.65 billion dollars.

Marketers are the ones that are most in tune with what customers demand and they should be the first in line to smell new opportunities and know when its time to pivot if you don’t want to dig your own hole.

Make your clients feel like they are part of something big

Since Henry started his job at the cabstand he always felt he was part of something bigger, maybe that’s why even though his dad would beat him for not showing up for school he would still come back to his job.

Henry was convinced that his work with the mob made him important, and part of a great organization. That’s how the bosses made him feel, and he dedicated his life to the mob.

Make your clients feel the same way and they will be yours for a lifetime…

Shoe apparel company Toms applies this lesson masterfully.

For every pair of their shoes you buy they donate another pair to someone in need.

They have become a prime example of a socially conscious company. They even prefer to be called a movement rather than a company.

The strategy has worked pretty well for them. According to the 2016 Brand World Value Rankings Toms is even more liked by millennials than Nike, which spends billions on marketing.

And it makes sense, knowing that you are helping a kid somewhere put on a new pair of shoes is a great motivator to buy from that company.

They way the clients see it, they are not buying from Toms, they are contributing to something major.

Toms has donated over 75 million pairs of shoes in developing countries and they are still at it, making kids and their customers feel special.

Have a sense of humor

Tommy DeVito just couldn’t take someone busting his balls — not even a bit — and that played a major role in this ultimate downfall.

Killing Billy Batts for the infamous “Now go home and get your f***ing shine box” remark was his death sentence.

Don’t be like Tommy, use humor to your advantage, you never know when a good laugh will get someone to hand their money over to you.

A great example is Dollar Shave Club, a small company that cut their way through major competitors such as Gillette and Bic.

So how did they become known worldwide? With great f***ing humor.

With a budget that couldn’t afford them TV ad space or a decent production crew, they still managed to get more than 24 million views on Youtube. You have probably seen the ad but it’s definitely worth watching again:

Smart humor is a great way for small companies such as The Dollar Shave Club to compete toe-to-toe with the big players.

The ad is blunt and outrageous — a bit like Tommy — but it is packed with good humor. That’s what made the ad, and the brand, so popular.

You will definitely last a lot as a marketer — and a gangster — if you have a sense of humor.

Win over your clients

Jimmy Conway, is depicted in the movie as a ruthless mobster who also had a skill for winning over people`s cooperation instead of their resistance.

“And when the cops assigned a whole army to stop Jimmy, what did he do? He made them partners.” Yeap, he definitely knew how to win over people.

Instead of pistol-whipping the truck drivers he robbed, Jimmy would give them a cut of the loot.

Jimmy knew how to make some people glad that he was robbing them.

Uber knows how to win over people when moving into a new city. They gave out free rides and hosted tech events to get closer to the early adapter group of users.

After getting their free ride users would automatically spread the word about how awesome Uber is and their business began to grow.

The free rides and sharing aspect of Uber has helped propel the company to a valuation of over 70 billion dollars.

It doesn’t matter what business you are in, if customers feel they are getting added value from you, the barrier for them to use your product or service will be much lower.

Break the damn rules

Henry and his crew broke rules everyday. In fact, they never cared about rules.

And that’s the biggest lesson we learn from Goodfellas: If we want to get something we need to break the rules.

And this rings true for almost every great project and endeavor ever produced. It tends to at least somewhat break the mold.

Good marketing is about breaking some rules the smart way.

That’s what brands such as red Bull have instilled in their credo. Live big, break rules, and count the money.

In fact after sponsoring Felix Baumgartner´s epic jump 39 kilometers into the Stratosphere almost nothing seems unbreakable for Red Bull.

Of course, the epic stunt excited audiences, it was covered on nearly 80 TV stations on 50 countries, the live webcast was distributed through 280 digital partners and racked up 52 million views, making it the most-watched live stream in history.

Not surprisingly the immense coverage translated into a boost in sales, in the U.S they jumped 17% over the previous year and in some markets such as France and Germany the jump had double digits.

Bold marketing is one of the reasons Red Bull, a startup from Austria, has become one of the most iconic brands in the world. I mean it makes sense, they are the only brand where jumping from space is included in their marketing calendar.

And the final lesson is… if you think a helicopter is following you. It probably is!

And that’s that.

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